Daniel 8 part 1: the ram, the goat, and the little horn
Daniel chapter 8 contains probably the most difficult of the main prophecies of Daniel, and as such requires close examination. Daniel 8 completes the picture with respect to the end time power that will prevail immediately prior to the second coming of Christ. Because of it’s complexity, the study of Daniel 8 is covered in two parts - this study, and study: ‘Daniel 8 part 2’.
2. Daniel chapter 8, summarized
In the interest of brevity, the relevant text of Daniel 8 is summarized as follows (if desired, the text may be viewed using the links):
2.1 The vision (Da 8:3-14)
A ram (vs 3,4): has two high horns; one horn was higher than the other and came up last.
It pushed westward, northward and southward.
Nothing could stand against it, and it did according to its will and became great.
A he goat (vs 5-8): came from the west on the face of the whole earth. It had a notable horn between its eyes. It attacked the ram with fury, breaking its two horns, and threw it to the ground and stamped on it.
The he goat became very great, and when he was strong its great horn was broken and four horns came up in its place towards the four winds of heaven.
A little horn (vs 9-12) grew out of one of the four horns. The little horn became great, toward the south (Egypt), the east (Syria), and the pleasant land (Palestine).
It grew great even towards ‘the host of heaven’, and cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground and stamped on them.
It magnified itself to the prince of the host and took away the ‘daily’ (sacrifice), and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
A ‘host’ was given him against the daily because of transgression (Strong’s H6588, revolt). It cast down the truth to the ground, and it practised and prospered.
The 2300 days prophecy (vs 13,14)
2300 days were given for the ‘daily’ and the ‘transgression (Strong’s H6588, revolt) of desolation (Strong’s H8074, devastation)’ to trample the host and the sanctuary underfoot.
At the end of the 2300 days, the Sanctuary will be cleansed (Strong’s H6663, to be right).
2.2 The Angel Gabriel explains (Da 8:15-27)
The vision is for the time of the end (v17), which will come at the appointed time (v19).
The ram and the goat (vs 20-22)
The ram represents the Medo-Persian empire (this is all Gabriel says about the ram). The goat represents the Greek empire. The goat’s first notable horn is the first king, out of which four kingdoms will grow. The ram and the goat are expanded in section 3.
The little horn (vs 23-25)
In the latter end of their kingdom when the transgressors (Strong’s H6586, trespass, apostasize) are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and ‘understanding dark sentences’ (Strong’s H2420, a puzzle, a trick) shall arise.
He shall be a mighty king, but not by his own power. By his policy (Strong’s H792, intelligence) he shall cause craft (Strong’s H4820, deceit) to prosper.
He shall magnify himself, and will destroy many by peace. He will stand up against the Prince of Princes, but he shall be ‘broken without hand’. The little horn is expanded in section 4.
The 2300 days prophecy (vs 26,27)
The vision of the ‘evening and the morning’ (i.e. days) is true - it must be ‘shut up’ for many days (thus, as the vision is for the time of the end, the understanding of the 2300 days is reserved until the end time).
Gabriel’s emphasis is placed clearly on the time of the end, the little horn, and the 2300 days. However, these are not as clearly explained as the ram and the goat.
The 2300 days prophecy is of critical importance with respect to the time of the end. A detailed discussion has thus been provided separately in study: ‘The 2300 days prophecy’.
Now we must examine the ram and the goat (which are explained clearly) that we may better understand that which is not explained as clearly.
3. The ram and the goat
The Ram, the Medo-Persian empire (539 -330 BC)
The ram was the national emblem of Persia, a ram being stamped on Persian coins as well as on the headdress of Persian emperors.
That one of the Ram’s two horns was higher than the other and came up last represents that the Persians were more powerful than the Medes and that they arose after the Medes.
The Goat, Greece
A goat was the national symbol of Greece. Its most notable king was Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). After Alexander’s early death at the height of his power (the notable horn was broken when the ram was strong, Da 8:8), his four leading generals divided his conquered territories amongst themselves:
Cassander ruled Greece; Lysimachus ruled Asia Minor; Seleucus ruled Syria and Israel; Ptolemy ruled Egypt.
The Greek kingdom came to an end in 146 BC when it was eclipsed finally by pagan Rome at the battle of Corinth.
Because the understanding of the ram and the goat has been made clear, we may have confidence that the remainder of Daniel 8 prophecy (the little horn, and the 2300 days), with study, can become clear.
4. The little horn
We have seen that the ram and the goat represent earthly powers; thus we know that the little horn must also be an earthly power, and furthermore, one which exists in the end time (Da 8:17). First we must attempt to understand from where and when, the little horn arises.
The end of Greece
We know that the little horn came out of one of the four horns of the Grecian goat (Da 8:9). The four horns of the goat were overcome when pagan Rome conquered Greece in 146 BC. However, pagan Rome had been a significant power for several centuries - thus it did not come out of the four horns of the Grecian goat (Da 8:23) in 146 BC.
The little horn, therefore, cannot be identified as pagan Rome. Furthermore, the little horn is an end time power, and pagan Rome did not last until the end time.
The four winds of heaven, a possible interpretation
Immediately preceding the rise of the little horn, Daniel saw the four horns of the goat ‘towards the four winds of heaven’ (Da 8:8) - the four winds are used elsewhere (Zec 2:6; Mt 24:31; Re 7:1) to denote the whole earth, i.e. the four directions of the compass.
In the original text, the four winds appear immediately before the little horn (its antecedent). Thus the little horn, it is proposed, must arise from one of these, i.e. from a geographical location, and not directly from one of the four Greek kingdoms, but indirectly at a later time. Certainly, no new world power arises at the time of the fall of Greece in 146 BC.
The little horn, an end time power
Gabriel makes it plain that the vision is for the time of the end (Da 8:17). Thus the little horn is an end time power which will be ‘broken without hands’ (Da 8:25).
This is parallel to the stone cut out without hands in Da 2:34, which is the setting up of God’s Kingdom (Da 2:44) - see study: ‘Daniel 2: kingdoms in advance’.
The little horn must therefore arise after all other powers, and be the final power that prevails to the end of history.
In this study we have begun the examination of the prophecies of Daniel 8. In particular, we have seen the rise of an evil power, represented by the 'little horn', that will endure until the moment Christ returns.
The study: ‘Daniel 7 and Revelation 13: the antichrist beast’ also addresses a 'little horn' that is presented in Daniel chapter 7. Thus we need to identify the 'little horn' of Daniel 8 so that we may compare the two - we do this in study: ‘Daniel 8, part 2’.